FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - The Miami Dolphins had just spent more than 10 minutes marching to a wildcat touchdown when Randy Moss used one stiff-arm to wipe out their lead.
Moss sped to a 71-yard touchdown after grabbing a short pass over the middle and shoving rookie cornerback Vontae Davis out of his way as the New England Patriots tightened their grip on the AFC East with a 27-17 win Sunday.
“That’s like getting stabbed in the heart right there,” Patriots guard Logan Mankins said. “You grind it out for like 10 minutes and finally score, and then in like a minute and a half we come right back.”
The touchdown — and a 2-point conversion connection between Tom Brady and Moss — put the Patriots ahead 24-17 with 3:15 left in the third quarter, and the Dolphins failed to get inside the New England 40-yard line after that.
“It was tough for us. The offense had just come off of a great drive,” Miami linebacker Jason Taylor said, “but Randy Moss made a play ... what he’s done for a million years.”
He did it twice Sunday.
On the Patriots’ second possession, Moss made a one-handed catch against Davis for a 36-yard gain to the 1-yard line. Laurence Maroney ran for the touchdown on the next play, putting New England ahead 7-3.
“That’s Randy Moss,” said Davis, who also intercepted Brady’s pass toward Moss on the Patriots’ first series. “He’s going to make his plays and I just tried to limit him the best I could.”
Miami’s two touchdowns came on the possessions on which it used the wildcat most extensively — after gaining just 36 yards on 21 wildcat plays in its previous two games — but New England’s quick-strike ability took back the momentum.
The Patriots (6-2) lead the idle New York Jets (4-4) and Miami and Buffalo (both 3-5) in the AFC East. The win was especially important since Miami had been 3-0 in division games and New England only 1-1. Last season, both finished at 11-5 and had the same record in AFC East games, but the Dolphins made the playoffs with a better conference record, and the Patriots missed them.
Brady missed all but the first quarter of last season with a knee injury one year after he and Moss hooked up for 23 touchdowns.
“He’s so fast,” Brady said. “It’s always nice for a quarterback when you see the back of (No.) 81 sprinting down the field.”
On Sunday, Moss caught six passes for 147 yards while Brady went 25 for 37 for 332 yards, his third straight game with more than 300 yards and team-record 27th of his career. The Dolphins played without two injured defensive starters, linebacker Channing Crowder and nose tackle Jason Ferguson.
Patriots starting center Dan Koppen did not return after hurting his knee in the second quarter and was replaced by Dan Connolly. The team gave no update on Koppen’s condition.
“It’s not the easiest thing to do when you lose your center,” Brady said, “but he came in and did a great job.”
Miami’s Ted Ginn Jr. was held to four kickoff returns for 97 yards plus two touchbacks after running back kickoffs for touchdowns of 100 and 101 yards a week earlier in a 30-25 win over the New York Jets.
Dan Carpenter’s career-long 52-yard field goal gave Miami a 3-0 lead before Moss set up the Patriots’ first touchdown.
Miami scored four touchdowns against the Patriots out of the wildcat in a 38-13 win last year but used just one wildcat play on its first three possessions Sunday. On its fourth series, it went with the alignment on five runs for 66 yards, the last a 15-yard touchdown by Ricky Williams on a handoff from Pat White. That tied the game 10-10 with 6:11 left in the second quarter.
The nation grieved for those hurt, killed and affected by the Boston Marathon bombings. After one of the suspects was caught on Friday — following a day-long lockdown and manhunt — sports returned to Boston over the weekend.
The wildcat worked again for the Dolphins on the first series of the third quarter when they used it eight times, the last a 1-yard touchdown pass from Brown to Joey Haynos as they took a 17-16 lead. That 16-play drive lasted 10:09.
But Brady and Moss wasted little time regaining the lead.
After a 5-yard run by Maroney and a 4-yard completion to Wes Welker, Brady hit Moss across the middle. He ran away from Davis for his 140th touchdown receiving, tying Terrell Owens for second place behind Jerry Rice’s 197.
“Everybody did what they had to do and 71 yards later it was a touchdown,” Moss said.
CSN: The Super Bowl's golden anniversary will be held in the Golden State. The new stadium, which opens in 2014, in Santa Clara will host Super Bowl L two years later, the NFL announced Tuesday.
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